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February 24, 2013

Electric-vehicle drivers outfit homes with specialized chargers

Fremont, Calif., resident Shinya Fujimoto bought his Nissan Leaf during heady times for electric-vehicle fans.

It was spring 2011, when there was so much anticipation over a shipment of these all-electric vehicles from Japan to the West Coast that someone climbed aboard a chopper, shot photos of the cars on shipboard on their way to Southern California and posted them on a blog popular among plug-in vehicle owners.

“These people were crazy,” said Fujimoto, who admits to being such an enthusiast that he keeps Excel spreadsheets to illustrate the savings his Leaf has brought over the gasoline-powered vehicle he drove before. (It’s been about $100 to $150 per month, he said.)

When Fujimoto’s shiny baby-blue Nissan finally arrived in July 2011 — after delays caused by Japan’s tsunami — he already had a key piece of equipment waiting for it: a home charging station.

“I wanted to make sure I got it before I got the car,” said Fujimoto. His 240-volt Blink-manufactured station was installed a month before the car arrived.

Technically speaking, the charger itself is in the vehicle, and the plug-in station designed to deliver the charge most efficiently is known as the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment, or EVSE.

Generally, electric vehicles, or EVs, can be charged by plugging in the car’s charging cable to a regular household outlet, which in most cases delivers about 120 volts. But EV owners refer to the juice flowing through such “Level 1” stations as a “trickle charge.” A Level 1 power source takes up to 21 hours for a Nissan Leaf, for example, to go from zero to a full charge. A preferred Level 2 AC charger, which delivers from 208 to 240 volts, takes eight hours or less. That is why an EVSE that is more efficient than a level 1 outlet is found in more and more homes of EV owners.

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